Leading Scientist says Food, Water and Energy Shortages Feared by 2030

19 March 2009

A hungry girl begs for food in sub-Saharan Africa
A hungry girl begs for food in sub-Saharan Africa
Speaking at the Sustainable Development conference in London, Britain's chief scientific advisor warns that under the backdrop of a growing global population, the world will face a "perfect storm" of threats as food, water and energy shortages combine to impact society by the year 2030. 

Dr. John Beddington says in just more than 20 years, the world's population will reach 8.3 billion.  In and of itself, that means needs will be greater in the future.  As this happens, Britain's chief scientific advisor warns that resources will be under increased pressure and climate change will also come into play, exacerbating problems.

"There is an increase in the demand for food.  That is going to be up by about 50 percent by 2030," Dr. Beddington said. "The increase in demand for energy is going to be up by a similar amount and the demand for fresh water, which is really very important, is going to be up by something like 30 or 40 percent."

Professor Beddington says now that oil prices have dropped again, domestic and international pressure to deal with energy issues that we will have to confront in the future may well decline.

But he underlines it is absolutely imperative to develop green solutions to lessen the impact that climate change will inevitably bring.

"I think the world community is taking that very seriously. You know, the major meeting is coming in Copenhagen at the end of the year.  So I think that climate change is very high up the agenda.  Similarly, I think food security is up the agenda and needs to be but I think that the problem of water security I think is really not being addressed properly," he said.

The U.N. Environment Program predicts the amount of fresh water available will drop off sharply in parts of Africa, Asia and Europe by the year 2025.

Dr. Beddington says part of his message is these next two decades must be used wisely if the world is to be better prepared to cope with the threats we will face.

"If we are going to use science and technology to address some of these problems, we are going to need to get that science and technology in place well in time to actually address issues," Dr. Beddington said.

If little is done in the coming years, Beddington says the "perfect storm" of threats will increase the likelihood of unrest, conflict and mass migration in various parts of the world.